About five years ago, while driving to my school in Morehouse Parish, I happened to listen to an NPR report on KEDM that was titled "Struggle for Smarts - How Eastern and Western Cultures Tackle Learning". The story fascinated me then, and now, years later, I believe the subject of this story to be one of the most important matters that educators and parents of young learners need to consider. I cannot distill the report adequately , so I hope that you will take a few minutes to read and/or listen to it HERE. However, I will include this excerpt from the story:
"I think that from very early ages we [in America] see struggle as an indicator that you're just not very smart," Stigler says. "It's a sign of low ability — people who are smart don't struggle, they just naturally get it, that's our folk theory. Whereas in Asian cultures they tend to see struggle more as an opportunity."
In Eastern cultures, Stigler says, it's just assumed that struggle is a predictable part of the learning process. Everyone is expected to struggle in the process of learning, and so struggling becomes a chance to show that you, the student, have what it takes emotionally to resolve the problem by persisting through that struggle.
"They've taught them that suffering can be a good thing," Stigler says. "I mean itsounds bad, but I think that's what they've taught them."
All of this matters because the way you conceptualize the act of struggling with something profoundly affects your actual behavior.
Obviously if struggle indicates weakness — a lack of intelligence — it makes you feel bad, and so you're less likely to put up with it. But if struggle indicates strength — an ability to face down the challenges that inevitably occur when you are trying to learn something — you're more willing to accept it.
We read an article recently by Victoria Prooday, O.T. and we found it to be profound...so much so that we encourage all of our parents to read and consider it carefully. - KB
This next article is an appropriate bookend for the previous article. When reading this article, one might reasonably think that the author is advocating that parents and educators pander to our particular generation of students who are used to instant satisfaction, constant stimulation, and knowledge by Google. In fact, the previous article that we shared above warns about this dependency on "immediacy" by our youth. Nevertheless, this second article is very insightful, and while we can rightfully criticize the tendencies we see in our youngsters that are tied to technological dependence, we have to also realize that sometimes there are pivotal and historic changes that cross all lines and simply will not be reversed.
The world is changing very quickly, primarily because of technology, and the youngest inhabitants of this rapidly changing world have never known a day in their lives when they/we were not "connected" digitally. The term "phigital" refers to these young people who are known as Generation Z, and who are "unwilling or unable to draw a distinction between the physical world and its digital equivalent."
There is an inherent tension at work here for parents and teachers. We have a balancing act ahead of us as we seek to show this generation how to slow down, wait for it, and really explore in order to learn, while also preparing them for a world that will more and more demand that they be "immediate" learners, responders and producers.